Sunday, July 26, 2015

Culinary Corner: Salad Dressings

Culinary Corner continues with an entry giving us some options for salad dressings.  We can relate to Elizabeth's commentary about salads.  Rob, in particular, has never appreciated iceberg lettuce and it was not until we started growing a number of heirloom lettuces that we discovered some lettuces that match his tastes.   Good quality greens are a necessary start - which we can provide for you.  The next step?  Try some of these dressings and explore how good a salad can be! Elizabeth Hinds continues her guest appearances on our blog with this installment - enjoy.

Bunte Forellenschus Lettuce

 I would like to begin by mentioning that I am a very recent salad convert. The tasteless iceberg salads I grew up with never interested me, and the toppings less so. The only thing I did enjoy was the dressing, because it made up for everything the salad lacked. I experienced a revelation last year in the form of a homemade buttermilk dressing that changed everything I thought I knew about salads. It was called a baby gem salad and it was composed of baby romaine lettuce, candied pecans, fresh apple slices, blue cheese crumbles, and the most flavorful dressing I had ever tasted. While the individual ingredients of the salad were good on their own, it was the surprising combination that drew me in and encouraged me to start branching out in the salad department. The buttermilk dressing in particular was a game changer. It is similar to a ranch dressing, but brighter and fresher than anything you can find in a bottle. This creamy, tangy dressing is smooth and delicious with just about any salad addition you can think of.

 Buttermilk Dressing 
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • ½ cup mayo 
  • ½ cup sour cream 
  • ½ tsp salt
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl to combine. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Candied Pecans

Just in case you want to try this life-changing salad for yourself! This recipe is really easy to whip up in about 15 minutes and is great in the salad, as an addition to your morning cereal, or even an ice cream topping!

1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small pot and cook for 5 minutes.Drain off the sugar syrup and spread the pecans in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes, tossing them with a heat-proof spatula every so often, until the pecan are toasted and glossy, but not too dark. They will be a little sticky right out of the oven, but will get crunchy as they cool.

NOTE: These can burn very quickly, so you’ll want to stay nearby while they’re in the oven. Let cool completely in the pan before breaking up any clumps that form from stirring. 


With the introduction of other artisan lettuces, I quickly expanded my salad eating repertoire with a host of vinaigrettes which were surprisingly easy to make with a little help from a mason jar. Generally, I don’t hold to any recipe for making vinaigrettes, but instead use a basic ratio and add goodies from there. The basic ratio for a vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3 part oil. If you are making a citrus based dressing, use 1 part juice to four parts oil.
Red Russian kale is a decent option for salads

If you have this ratio down, you can add anything you want from herbs to jams to flavor your dressing. As you might expect, mixing oil and water together doesn’t stay together very long. Keeping your dressing in a mason jar makes it really easy to give it a good shake just before you pour, but if you want your mix to have a little more staying power, a hint of mustard is the secret ingredient. Mustard seeds contain a natural emulsifier that allows the oil and vinegar to stay blended long after mixing. It’s not a permanent fix, but it will take several hours to separate rather than the few seconds in typical oil and vinegar mix. Usually the amount of mustard added is so little (only a half teaspoon per pint of dressing) that it doesn’t affect the taste of the dressing too much. That being said, one of my favorite vinaigrettes actually puts whole-grain mustard front and center.

Mustard Vinaigrette
Even though there is more mustard in this recipe than I would normally add to hold a vinaigrette together, the mustard flavor isn’t overpowering or even very spicy. The apple cider vinegar gives this dressing a lovely delicate flavor, while the whole grain mustard gives it a pretty speckled look. The little mustard seeds also give this dressing a nice texture and pop a little as you chew. Because the ingredients are mostly vinegar, salt and oil, this dressing will keep for a very long time in the fridge. The dressing will begin to separate after a couple of days of sitting, but is great at holding its own at cookouts and other large gatherings where it will need to sit on a table for a couple of hours.
  • 1 tsp whole grain mustard 
  • ½ tsp yellow or Dijon mustard 
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 3 cups canola oil 
  • 1 tsp salt 
    Amish Deer Tongue lettuce for a spinach like texture
Whisk together the mustard, vinegar and salt together in a large bowl. Add the oil a cup at a time, whisking well between additions. Split the vinaigrette between to pint-sized mason jars. Will keep for months in the fridge.

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